I heard a fascinating story on NPR the other day. The government in Mexico is distributing short stories in train stations in the cities to try and curb crime. They're hoping that young trouble makers will be too engrossed in reading to hassle commuters. The books can be read freely as long as they are put back on the shelves in the station.
Government officials say that the initial results have been very positive, but the most unexpected effect is that people feel really empowered by the fact that the government trusts people to put these books back onto the shelves. In Mexico, nothing is lent on the premise that it will be given back - people are assumed to be thieves. Turning this around has given people a great sense of confidence. The result? 70% of the books return to their shelves and Mexican authors, although they're only paid a once-off fee for their work ($600), have gained a market that they had previously given up on.
The intracacies of the gift economy do not cease to fascinate and amaze me.